During the 2021 Special Session of the Virginia General Assembly (GA), the GA passed Senate Bill 1157 (SB1157) that mandates all local/municipal elections to occur in November. This legislation will take effect on July 1, 2021.
Over 100 municipalities in Virginia, including Middleburg, hold local elections in May. This was specifically chosen by these municipalities so that local issues could be the focus of elections.
With the passage of SB1157, the default date of municipal elections would be even-year November elections (2022, 2024, 2026, etc.). Even-year elections are when Presidential and Federal elections occur. If the Town Council takes no action, current Council members’ terms would automatically extend by approximately 6 months until the November 2022 or November 2024 elections occur.
Certain municipalities have felt that holding municipal elections would be better in odd years so that local issues do not get lost in national politics. These odd-year November elections would coincide with State and County elections.
The Town Council has a very limited period of time to decide whether to change elections to odd years or whether to default to even-year elections. To move elections to odd years would require passage of an ordinance changing the Town elections and must be made by May 13, 2021, as the candidate filing deadline for November 2021 elections is June 8, 2021. If a decision is made for even-year elections, this decision is permanent and cannot be changed in the future.
It must be noted that if the Town Council changes to odd-year November elections, current members’ terms would be shortened by approximately 6 months. In other words, those regularly set for election in May 2022 would be up for election in November 2021.
The Town Council has expressed a desire to get a sense of the Middleburg voters on their preference for odd-year or even-year elections. As such, the Town staff are preparing an information mailer (see draft attached) that will be sent to all registered voters. The mailing will include a postage paid postcard that can be returned to the Town Office, along with a link for filling out the survey online.
Absent any change in preference by Council, Town staff will proceed with this mailing. The estimated cost is around $1,500, which can be covered in the current budget allocation.
EVEN YEAR ELECTIONS
Expected greater voter turnout
Potential for greater community involvement in town related issues
Limits confusion on when and where to vote
Local issues may get lost in national politics
May “politicize” local elections, where they are not party specific
Municipal elections occur every two years; so not every election will coincide with a Presidential election, which typically has the most turnout
ODD YEAR ELECTIONS
Allows local issues to dominate the conversation
Avoids politics of national elections
Allows local (town) elections to be on same ballot as local (county) elections
Historically has lower turnout than Presidential election years
Potential that the General Assembly changes election dates again in the future